Joshi Spotlight- AJW Wrestlemarinepiad ’93 (Part One)

AJW WRESTLEMARINEPIAD ’93:
(09.10.1993)

It’s the fifth Wrestlemarinepiad! With the Dream Slam having happened earlier in the year, “Interpromotional Matches” are the new norm! This led to a series of increasing houses for the various joshi companies in a new age, though of course this had that issue you always run into- once you escalate things to that point, what are you going to do once the fans get bored… or worse, if you eventually stop co-promoting stuff and have to go back to regular shows? But tonight, we have a ton of Main Event-quality matches that are also Dream Matches in many regards!

Looking at the list of matches, I’m seeing some very dramatic mismatches and “obviously this is the person who jobs” set-ups, probably because what was once AJW’s biggest show is now sharing space with Dream Slams, Dream Rushes, St. Battles, and Big Egg Wrestling Universes- we’ve entered a new era of profitable times for joshi (one that’d last… only until 1995, sadly), and so Wrestlemarinepiad is “just one more show”. So there’s no need to pull out ALL the stops when putting one company’s Upper-Midcarders against another’s Main Eventers is shocking, unique Dream Matches that will draw interest anyhow. But the top three matches are definitely going to be bangers.

This review ended up long enough that I had to cut it in half.

TL;DR- Why You Should Watch This: The show had a bunch of **** and above matches on it, takes place right in the Dream Match Era (so you have a ton of bouts you wouldn’t see otherwise), and splits up the Yamada/Toyota (vs) Kansai/Ozaki feud into a pair of singles matches, creating a lot of drama. And the main event is the top two stars in AJW- Aja Kong & Akira Hokuto, in a big-time match.

This show starts with a 30-minute introduction, which is always cute on these tapes- though shockingly “real life”, as people who often fight each other are shown sharing locker rooms. Watching Bull Nakano with full “stage hair” casually pouring a coffee while Etsuko Mita sits in the back with curlers in her hair is pretty glorious, though.

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AJW Comedy Jobber, Numacchi. A recurring element in ’93 & ’94 shows until she gives it up. No idea what happened there- was she just not developing right?

ETSUKO MITA, TOMOKO WATANABE & NUMACCHI (AJW) vs. CAROL MIDORI, MIKIKO FUTAGAMI & MIZUKI ENDO (LLPW):
* Our opening match is a grab-bag six-woman tag of random people. Mita is of course Best Girl, hailing from Las Cachorras Orientales, and slowly moving up the company, having defeated Suzuka Minami this year. And YES! She’s wearing the awesome WHITE VARIANT of her ’93 gear! The two-piece with the badass Rising Sun on the side! Watanabe is often part of a jobber duo losing to LCO, as her and Kaoru Ito tend to job to anyone with any name value, while themselves being better than jobbers- clearly she’s on the way up, but slowly. She’s wearing a shiny green top and purple pants with orange tassles on them. Numacchi started the year as a rookie jobber Saemi Numata, but has now morphed into her Comedy Jobber character- a goofy, squawking chick with a hard hat, pajama pants, and shovel. She would retire the next year.

Midori is wearing a simply hideous pink/purple tie-die singlet underneath her “ring gear”, which is… a 1950s housewife dress. So weird. Mizuki Endo actually still wrestles, going by “Aiger”, and has won largely tag gold over the years, and is wearing the jobberiest blue singlet ever. Futagami, last seen at Dream Slam II in a “Rookie 6-Man”, had a 23-year career, lasting until 2013! She was a tag specialist, winning belts only on that front, going to LLPW, ARSION, Jd’ and others- she seems to have peaked around 1999-2001. She’s plain-looking, has a mandatory mushroom-cut, and wears blue tights with black trim & white diamonds on them- pretty sharp.

Some REALLY uncoordinated brawling opens things up, with people screwing around, “no-selling” because they don’t realize a kick went their way, etc. Then they start slowly working over each team’s lowest-ranking member. Almost nothing of note happens until ten minutes in, when Futagami & Watanabe get into a slugfest with elbows, and Tomoko’s Lariat wipes out the LLPW girl! Then it’s more casual “trading the basics” against the jobbers until Mita accidentally does a Flying Chest Slap to Numacchi, and she’s nearly ended by a Vader Bomb from Futagami & a German Suplex from Midori. Tomoko runs in with a Perfect Plex & bridging vertical suplex, but gets a flying thing reversed by LLPW run-ins and is hit with Enzo’s Samoan Drop into Midori’s Spinning Splash. Mita gets her Electric Chair Drop reversed to a rollup (first thing she’s taken all match!) by Futagami, then kicks out of a Pumphandle Sit-Out Powerbomb. Top rope thing gets turned into a VICIOUS Superplex for two (she actually slipped trying to stand on the top rope and fucked it up, but had the experience to do a really fast spin so that it hit with a ton of force instead of looking stupid). Tomoko’s Kyoko Lite stuff does okay, but she eats a Powerbomb before hitting a Hurricanrana on Endo. Endo goes for another Vader Bomb, but that’s perfect timing for Mita to run in with the Electric Chair, which allows Tomoko to hit a weird Pumphandle Cross-Armed German Suplex Hold for the win (18:53).

This was… very much just “trying casual stuff” for a House Show Match and not very good. It was FINE, but there was little flow and concept beyond “let’s work over the rookies”, though I can’t imagine AJW saw much of a future in Numacchi by this point. SUPER long for what we got, too, even though Midori was in the ring maybe like 45 seconds. Decent enough for an opener, I guess.

Rating: **1/2 (just trading some average stuff for a while, but the final few minutes was pretty good)

ELIMINATION “CAPTAIN FALL” EIGHT-WOMAN TAG:
MIMA SHIMODA, KAORU ITO, CHIKIKO SHIRATORI & CHAPARITA ASARI (AJW) vs. CUTIE SUZUKI, PLUM MARIKO, HIKARI FUKUOKA & COMMAND BOLSHOI (JWP):
* Oh jesus, this is a stacked bout. Though it’s basically “Shimoda & Rookies/Jobbers” versus “JWP’s Top Three Prospects and a Rookie”, so I give AJW like a 10% chance at victory here. Short versions of bios: Shimoda is part of LCO with Mita, and oddly split off from her here- she’s wearing an outfit I’ve not seen before- a red & pink variant of her tassled two-piece look. Ito is one of AJW’s resident “always a bottom-card girl, but given a shot” wrestlers, infamous for always finding the worst gear imaginable (in this case, a blue singlet with a green Peter Pan shirt over it). Asari is a baby rookie at this point, but will be getting a push (and her own signature title, the Super Lightweight, shortly). She has really short hair and a goofy light green outfit with puffy bits on the hips and shoulder pads. I dunno Shiratori… oh wait, she was Chikako Hasegawa before. She looks like she was supposed to get a “Pretty Girl” push, has “hime cut” bangs and long hair, and is wearing a white & pink spackled Jobber Singlet. She actually had a ten year career! She left AJW in two years to join Splinter Promotional Madness (in the Jd’ promotion), then JWP, then Osaka Pro of all places, retiring in 2001. Cutie is a highly-credible JWP “Idol” wrestler, and #3 or 4 in their hierarchy. Plum, famous for the in-ring injury that killed her, is right behind her, and is wearing a purple/green/blue painted outfit. Fukuoka has “Future Ace” written all over her, and would eventually get there…. despite her horrendous, brown “cavewoman”-style leotard, with torn-up strips of spotted fabric all over it. Jesus. Command Bolshoi is an itty-bitty rookie here, but would rise up the ranks and even become Head Booker/Owner of JWP, then Super-J, after this. She’s got a Dos Caras-like blue/red combo bodysuit and mask, with a clown nose on it.

This is a “Captain Fall” match, meaning that if the captain gets pinned, it’s over. But eliminations also count. Bolshoi & Asari start us off with some crowd-pleasing flips, but Asari, then Plum, eat quadruple-team kicks. Everyone trades off for short stretches, with Shimoda growling and getting her One-Woman Bitch Pose, while Hikari does her hilariously-goofy “Wind-Up Popeye Punch” on Ito. QUADRUPLE PLANCHAS from Team JWP, but only Cutie’s is caught by the camera. Repeated breakdowns, run-ins, and double-teams occur, leading to Shimoda eating a SUPER Rock Bottom from Bolshoi! And it’s still early! She then takes TWO Moonsaults and Rock Bottom Spam before… reversing to a Flatliner? In 1993? Jesus. Still looks like “giving yourself a Rock Bottom”, too. Asari in on Bolshoi, and two Cartwheel Backflip Mule Kicks, a Standing Moonsault (1993!), and the Sky Twister Press (Corkscrew Moonsault) finishers her at (8:48). Well damn. MAJOR applause from the crowd over that insane offense this early in the decade.

Ito & Shiratori get showcased a bit, Shiratori pulling off some slick counter-wrestling that impresses. Ito takes a beating from Fukuoka, but gets her knees up for a Moonsault… and a Flying Stomp pins her (14:01)!! Whoa- was not expecting that- their “tiers” are a ways off. Ito signalling her team to cover for her, and the JWP girls dragging them over JUST a bit too late was a great touch. It’s 4 on 2 now, though Plum & Cutie haven’t even begun to get their shit in. And after a bit of slow stuff, Cutie tosses Plum into two of the opposing team, allowing her a Flying Stomp to take out Shiratori (16:36). And then Asari IMMEDIATELY runs in, but gets snapped into a Dragon Suplex for another quick pin (16:49)! Crowd was dead for Shiratori’s fall, but is now sufficiently into it. They then slow it down, with sleepers on Shimoda and leg stuff on Cutie, then Ito spams Ass Attacks (I know, I’m as shocked as you are), but THIS Flying Stomp doesn’t get the pin on Plum. Mariko’s in that odd zone where she’s well above-average, but that utterly fails to stand out in early ’90s Joshi. Like, her Front Dropkicks and “Reverse a Splash to a Fallaway Slam Hold” are good, but I’m used to “Beyond Excellent” at this point- I need to see more of her best stuff. Crowd is fading, so Shimoda head-drops Cutie, hits a Flying Plancha to both, and Ito does a Double-Stomp off the apron to both as well. Stomp Spam on Cutie fails to get the win, as does JWP’s Flying Stomps on Ito. Shimoda’s Butterfly Superplex gets the pin broken up. Mima takes a German, but kicks out and hits a Tiger Suplex for another near-fall. Mima goes up… but a Super Frankensteiner from Plum finishes her and wins the Captain’s Fall (27:47)!

Damn- heck of a match, though once it turned into 2-on-2, it slowed way down and let everyone rest until it was time to veer into the final stages. Since JWP “outranked” their opponents, they lost the early falls to get some drama, and wowed the crowd with awesome stuff, but I felt like Plum’s generic stuff and Ito’s relentless spamming of two moves held it back a tiny bit. Overall, very solid when taken as a whole, though could have probably had five minutes shaved off of it.

Rating: ***1/2 (very good, though I preferred the first half. Good drama for the Escalating Finishers part, though)

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Grumpy Kandori nearly always has this kind of expression on her face.

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Sakie Hasegawa for the two things she’s most famous for- her Solebutt, and her insane tie-dyed tights.

TAKAKO INOUE & SAKIE HASEGAWA (AJW) vs. SHINOBU KANDORI & YASHA KURENAI (LLPW):
* Well this is interesting. Takako is part of AJW’s top team, but is with AJW’s top prospect rookie for this one… against LLPW’s Ace. Uh-oh. Takako’s wearing a yellow & blue variant of her white & blue 1993 gear, which kind of clashes. Sakie’s in her usual singlet look, but this time it’s shiny and with pink & red splotches on it. Kandori is LLPW’s top star and Champion, wielding a devastating judo-based mat style and being booked like a total monster. She had a ***** classic against Akira Hokuto at the Dream Slam, too. She looks startingly like a female version of Antonio Inoki, with the prominent chin and Elvis hair. Now she’s got a purple singlet with black & white designs on it- kind of similar to Futagami’s gear and the other one I saw at Dream Slam II- do all LLPW girls have the same tailor or something? Yasha Kurenai debuted in 1989 and retired in 1999, winning only the All Pacific Title (AJW’s #2 belt) as singles gold in 1998 aside from some tag stuff- she’s wearing a white shirt and baggy red pants, looking like something out of the Attitude Era… five years early. Kurenai stonefaces the interviewer, while Kandori only says a tiny bit.

Holy shit- the LLPW girls attack their opponents in the ENTRANCEWAY, while the theme music is still going on! Kurenai’s using a POLE! Takako, of course, being Secretly Crazy, starts railing Yasha’s head into the turnbuckles for this, then SLAPS Kandori- uh-oh. She dodges a clothesline and tries the Chokeslam… but you don’t wanna put one arm up against Kandori for any reason. And Kandori takes her down with a frightening Cross-Armbreaker that has the crowd gasping, then LETS GO and does the “bring it on” pose. Oh shit. Kandori’s so O.P. that even Takako can’t do anything, but she uses the hair against Yasha and takes advantage. I like how Kandori is so credible a threat that every time the girls smack her and she sells, the crowd cheers like nuts. A cool double-team sees Kandori jump over a blocking Sakie… right into a SECOND Chokeslam attempt, and this one works.

Takako*Panic (Flying Knee) gets a close two, and Takako collapses in frustration. Kandori gets a Swinging Sleeper, and Yasha hits a Super Chokeslam for two. Takako makes the tag, and now it’s Sakie’s SOLEBUTT SPAM! I love her “fired up rookie” act so much. Kandori disrespects her utterly with kicks, and hits a Powerbomb, but Takako flies in and dumps her to deal with her overpowered-ness. And then she MILKS IT trying for a count-out, which is great strategy, as she’s not legal and Kandori is. Finally Yasha makes it over from her own brawl and deals with that, and Kandori gets in, swats away Sakie’s Solebutt, and strangles her with a Sleeperhold while taunting poor Takako the entire way (11:04).

Interesting match- a bit short, but that meant it was all action- Kandori’s stuff was NOT treated like restholds/stretching but lethal tapout stuff, and the “story” was that she was horribly-strong, but could be double-teamed, and Yasha was weaker. I kinda like how the top-tier joshi have their overpowered natures threaded into the stories of the bouts- dealing with them becomes such an issue.

Rating: ***1/2 (actually a very fun little match with some good offense and smart booking/strategy)

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Reggie Bennett’s actual gear for this match. “Go, Staryu!”

BULL NAKANO & REGGIE BENNETT vs. YUMIKO HOTTA & SUZUKA MINAMI:
* This one’s just between AJW wrestlers. Reggie’s new to my reviews- she’s very tall, very strong-looking American wrestler who looks like a cross between a BBW and Scott Norton. She debuted in 1986 but was obscure until here- this is actually her first match in AJW, where she got instantly pushed- she has wins over people like Manami Toyota, and was best known for a long feud against Takako Inoue. She retired in 2001 after a workmanlike career after her mid-90s push faded away. Here she’s QUITE bulky and dressed like Misty from Pokemon as a Construction Worker- jean shorts, orange tank-top and hardhat. It’d be a “Comedy Wrestler” look if she weren’t taller than Bull Nakano and so big that she gets more muscle fetishist comments on YouTube than Mike Tolbert does. Nakano is still a dominant wrestler but no longer the Ace, and is sporting a more natural hair color, albeit still standing straight up. Her standard black leotard is now covered by a tie-dyed red & green torn-up shirt. Hotta & Minami represent the Upper Midcard, with Hotta gaining increasing credibility with each passing year, while Minami’s push has stagnated but she’s still a great “Gatekeeper” to people getting pushes. Minami’s wearing some atrocious bright blue, green and yellow singlet, while Hotta has a nice black & white striped one.

Minami actually goes for a test of strength to start, which seems like a bad idea, given that Reggie’s literally twice as thick as she is from the side. The results make it pretty clear that Minami’s here to make Reggie look REALLY strong, as the crowd is really impressed by a Gorilla Press onto Reggie’s knee and Suzuka getting ragdolled around the ring. Hotta’s kicks hurt a bit, but Reggie chops her down, too- Bull’s in, but actually gets laid low by some double-teams. Minami having to hit her Flying Senton right away is not a good sign for their chances, but they manage to work Reggie over for a bit, then slow it WAY down and work over Bull, who in fact puts Hotta over like a champ, selling the kicks like murder and eating a Tiger Driver. But then it’s the Joshi Irish Whip of Transitions and she takes over on Minami, hits her twice with nunchucks (only TWICE?), and lands a Powerbomb. Bennett scores a great Powerslam, but misses a splash, and Bull comes in with the Guillotine Legdrop on Minami! That lets Reggie hit her splash, then flips Minami into a Torture Rack, as Minami almost immediately gives up (11:02).

Really interesting little match, as it was clear that Minami was there on Job Duty from the very beginning, as they wanted to put over their new star. But BULL did almost all of the selling for much of the bout, seemingly to build drama. It was well-booked, in that Reggie wasn’t totally unstoppable, but a remarkably-powerful wrestler, and she still needed Bull’s help to really catch her opponents with stuff. Hotta had the classic “looked good in failure” thing, as she wasn’t responsible for the loss, and still got some of her shit in. Clearly there are plans for her, too.

Rating: *** (actually good for such a “short” match. Reggie was a tad clumsy out there, but that more or less fits her style, and her finisher looked like a killer given her huge size advantage)

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“After ten-thousand years I’m FREE! Time to conquer EARTH!”

KYOKO INOUE (AJW) vs. DEVIL MASAMI (JWP):
* Oh, now THIS is interesting. Kyoko is AJW’s big up & coming star, and probably their most classically-babyface character- she’s probably always over. But she’s up against a former AJW Heel Ace in Devil Masami (Dump Matsumoto? Legendary Monster Heel and arch-nemesis of the Crush Gals? She never beat Devil), who was retired from AJW by the “26 year” rule, and moved on to JWP as a top-tier wrestler rather than end her career. Kyoko’s wearing her neon yellow & pink tassled tights with the Ultimate Warrior facepaint. Devil’s wearing the kind of body-covering all-black uniform that most 40-something Joshi end up wearing in their later years. Shoulder-length gloves, high boots and a lot of metal studs. And she looks strong as hell- tall and muscular.

So these two are the most “All Japan”-esque wrestlers in Joshi, so this should be interesting. The “*clapclapcalp KYO-KO!” chants start up, and Devil just calmly admonishes the crowd by waving her finger- she’s got the best character tics in Joshi. And to be more awesome, they go through some Hogan/Rock-type stuff with the slow lockups and milking the moment for the crowd. Devil’s such a fascinating wrestler to watch, though, because everything’s got this slow, deliberate confidence to it. It’s not that “methodical pace” Jim Ross-ism, but like she takes her time. There’s still BIG MOVEZ (Somersault Senton, Suplex to the outside, jumping stomps on the floor), but she’s not spamming it out, and milks each impact to make it seem better. Kyoko pulls some stuff out every once in a while, too- Again, I don’t want to drop the “good back and forth action” Bad Reviewer Cliche.

Devil stretches Kyoko in all sorts of weird ways (can’t even describe this stuff) while hitting Lariats, Powerbombs and a Superplex, while Kyoko can only manage brief comebacks (Springboard Dropkick, Plancha Suicida) before being drilled again- Devil is coming off like a confident monster. VICIOUS Powerbomb gets a close two- Devil hits one of the best I’ve seen. One too many, though, and she’s reversed, then eats the Backspring Flying Elbow. NIAGARA DRIVER (Over the Shoulder Sit-Out Powerbomb)!! But that only gets two, and Devil starts to come back… but her vertical suplex is reversed into a weird rollup from a piggyback that turns into the “reversing a Victory Roll” pin, and Kyoko wins (19:52)! Kyoko can’t even believe she beat the legend (she looks to the ref for reassurance), while Devil has this FANTASTIC look of “well holy shit- the kid got me!”. She even gets the post-match interview where she’s all smiles about it. Devil rules.

Really interesting match- full of the basics from Devil, who controlled almost the entire thing after a point. Which is odd, considering Kyoko’s so “offense-happy” and typically the stronger wrestler in her bouts. I adore Devil’s character stuff, and her sense of pacing and timing- a lot more than the “Gotta get my shit in” stuff typical of Joshi, and it grounds things a little bit. I wouldn’t want EVERYONE to wrestle like this, but she’s terrific, especially with her facial expressions and crowd interaction- no other Joshi seems as good at it. And I liked how the accumulated damage and her cardio started affecting her, as Kyoko still had boundless energy despite the beating she took, and a quick roll-up finished her instead of a death move- a very “Bret Hart” kind of ending.

Rating: **** (very nice, “classic”-style match)

That’s it for this half! It was going to be a 6,000+ word review, which seemed too long, so I’ll get the last three matches out later. They’re pretty impressive, let me tell you.